The Newfoundland and Lab-rador Arts Council has awarded the 2012 Rhonda Payne Theatre Award to local performer, producer and writer Tara Manuel.
The award is presented in memory of actor, writer and director Rhonda Payne and assists female theatre artists in Newfoundland and Labrador with a $500 cash prize.
Council member Todd Hennessy presented the award to Manuel Friday at the Fine Arts Theatre of Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, but her puppet Florence accepted it.
“I’m thrilled to receive this award,” Manuel said in a news release from the NLAC. “It’s lovely to be recognized by my peers for my work.”
She added, “the support from the NLAC has been a key factor in me honouring my personal commitment to create original work here on the west coast, in my home community. Many, many thanks.”
Manuel grew up on the west coast of Newfoundland and began her career as a child actor in Ken Pittman’s “Finding Mary March.”
She graduated from The National Theatre School of Canada and has performed with many theatres such as The Royal Alexandra, The Saidye Bronfman Centre, Manitoba Theatre Centre and The Monumental National.
Manuel owns Shadowy Souls Inc., a production company for family audiences, along with her husband Michael Rigler.
The company was formed in 2009.
With the help of the NLAC, Manuel toured its debut, original shadow puppet production called “St. George and the Dragon” to 40 schools all over Newfoundland and Labrador.
She travels alone with several hundred pounds of gear, performing cabaret with puppets that she and Rigler design and build.
She performs the puppetry live with digital projection and recorded sound playing in the background.
Her laptop, speakers and projector are set up on an eight-foot ladder behind the screen.
“I am responsible for all aspects of that production, the technical as well as the performing,” said Manuel in an email. “It’s an intensely demanding role, but I am rather strong so it doesn’t bother me too much.”
Manuel and Rigler are in the process of building an original puppet cabaret repertoire to tour internationally with support from the NLAC. She also teaches workshops on building, teching and performing the solo show.
“Tara has built a multi-faceted foundation for her career in the arts and cultural sector — exploring a variety of performance roles and styles — from writer to producer, and live acting to puppetry,” said Reg Winsor, executive director of the NLAC. “It’s a pleasure to congratulate Tara on this achievement.”
Manuel produced and starred in a black and white “horromedy” film, “The Tentacle’s Claw,” which won Best Foreign Comedy Feature at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival.
Rhonda Payne established the award by giving proceeds from the production and publication of her works to a fund to assist women working in the theatre community in Newfoundland and Labrador.
After her death in 2002, Rod Payne, her father, founded the Rhonda Payne Memorial Fund.
The award is administered by the NLAC to female applicants to the Professional Project Grants Program. The peer assessment committee for theatre chooses the winner during the fall granting session.
Donations can be made at TD Canada Trust, 140 Water St., St. John’s.